Pillow Talk: How to End Sleep Struggles

Put your child's sleep struggles to bed once and for all.
child in bed


Bedtime is a scramble in most houses, mine included. You're trying to finish one last thing when you check the time and realize your kid needs to start snoozing pronto. Or even if you're not running late, you have a wide-awake kid who fights her nightly routine. "Five- and 6-year-olds drag out bedtime longer than younger kids do -- it can be frustrating," says Jodi Mindell, Ph.D., a Parents advisor and associate director of the Sleep Center at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Wouldn't it be nice if bedtime could be storybook cozy? Well, it can. It's not too late to rewrite the ending to your family's bedtime tale. Follow this plan dreamed up by sleep experts.

Minimize Evening Disruptions
Your kid needs to start unwinding about an hour before bedtime. Late dinners and nighttime electronics stimulate children, making it harder for them to fall asleep, says Kim West, author of The Sleep Lady's Good Night, Sleep Tight: Gentle Proven Solutions to Help Your Child Sleep Well and Wake Up Happy. "If one parent gets home after 7, feed your child dinner early, then offer him yogurt or fruit to eat with the family later," says West.

If your child resists unplugging from his Wii, DS, or other electronics, give him a five-minute warning that turn-off time is nearing. If your child ignores you when it's time to quit, firmly but gently say, "If I have to turn off the Wii, I will decide when it gets turned on again. You might not like my decision." Don't remind him again or plead; that will teach him that he doesn't need to follow directions until you repeat them several times, says Parents advisor Wendy Sue Swanson, M.D., a pediatrician at Seattle Children's Hospital.

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